EDC: Lighter

Make fire to cook, light in the darkness, heat in the cold you just must have fire. While I have previously discussed the heated lawnmower blades as a fire lighter, for many they are not easy to use, especially when so many simple alternatives are available. Certainly the pair of iron strikers will last much longer off grid, often fire is needed fast and easy not eventually. Lets look at some commonly available cigarette lighters and their features, pros and cons.

Typical low pressure disposable plastic lighter

Typical low pressure disposable plastic lighter

Disposable plastic type lighter.

Fuel : pressurized butane

Refillable: usually no, sometimes yes check for valve.

Fuel life span: depends on use

Ignition system: usually striker wheel and flint, sometimes piezoelectric

Ignition life span: striker wheel good, piezos can often fail

Material: Mostly plastic

Weight:  low

Cost: low $1-2

Main advantage: cheap readily available.

Main disadvantage: not refillable usually

Typical high pressure piezoelectric butane lighter. Some have an LED light as a optional feature.

Typical high pressure piezoelectric butane lighter. Some have an LED light as a optional feature.

High pressure butane type lighter

Fuel: butane at high pressure

Refillable: Sometimes

Fuel life span: Fuel often will leak, 2 weeks at most.

Ignition system: piezoelectric.

Ignition life span: often fails before fuel is gone.

Material: plastic.

Weight: low.

Cost: medium, often gimmick factor in price.

Main advantage: very hot flame, good in windy conditions.

Main disadvantage: very unreliable.

Typical Zippo type lighter. Iconic.

Typical Zippo type lighter. Iconic.

Zippo type lighter

Fuel:  volatile liquid hydrocarbons

Refillable: yes

Fuel life span: 2-3 weeks depending on fuel, temperature, and use.

Ignition system: striker wheel and flint

Ignition life span: long 3- 6 months between replacing flints

Material: metal, brass  is common

Weight: heavy

Cost: high $30- 50 depending on brand and quality

Main advantages: very robust, big flame, very simple design.

Main disadvantages: heavy, difficult to replace flints, fuel will evaporate quickly.

Typical Imco type lighter. One of the better options.

Typical Imco type lighter. One of the better options.

Imco Triplex type lighter

Fuel:  volatile liquid hydrocarbons

Refillable: yes

Fuel life span: long

Ignition system: striker wheel and flint

Ignition life span: medium, uses flints fast.

Material: metal

Weight: medium, not much heavier than plastic lighters

Cost: medium, $20

Main advantage:  small and easy to maintain, quite reliable creates large spark, long fuel life

Main disadvantage: uses flints fast, seem complex at first, lots of sliding parts and a spring.


If you already have a Zippo type or Imco type lighter, keep it. If you can justify $20 or more for a lighter, get one of those two, if not, two or three low pressure lighters. Avoid the high pressure lighters, their special feature is seldom needed and they fail often. If you are deciding on a liquid hydrocarbon fueled lighter remember to have fuel and periodically check the fuel levels.

Scram Bag : The Bag

The bag itself.

While you may opt for a jacket with many big pockets, this may not be very practical.

A simple bag made from a sack. The potato in this diagram could be a rounded rock or a tennis ball.

The most basic bag is a strong sack, better than nothing and with the addition of some basic rope you have a way to close it and attach it to your back to carry it.

It’s worth knowing about this basic improvisation because for some it will be all there is. it should be noted that the sack could have two straps instead of one.


The next step up is a simple small day pack, similar you what school students might have. the advantages will be: more solid fabric, more comfortable straps, larger comfortable load, additional compartment for smaller items and to keep things more ordered.

the deluxe solution is a sport/hiking day pack where the additional features are: Even more compartments, very comfortable straps and the likely addition of a water bladder compartment. Adding a water bladder will allow you to carefully control your hydration which will keep you more comfortable for longer.

If you require a longer journey a larger hiking backpack will be what you need , it will essentially be an even larger version of the hiking day pack, and obviously allow you to carry a larger  weight and volume of things.

EDC: Multitool/ pocket knife

Coming in at number 4 on the list.

It’s actually hard to separate the items at this level of the list but this one wins the spot based on multiple uses and compact size.

Learnings of multi tool/pocketknives

Multi tools with pliers built in are less useful than you think. you would be better of with an actual set of pliers of that size once you consider cost and strength of the pliers.Certainly some situations require pliers but if you really need pliers you might as well get vice grips which are self locking pliers.

Compare the cost of multi tool with pliers versus a good pocket knife and a good set of vice grips.

So we have narrowed it back done to pocket knifes really.

important features/attachments:

Knife: the blade must lock and be very sturdy when locked. A knife will allow you to modify and construct many things.

Screwdriver: Phillips (+) and flat head (-). very few tools can improvise the screwdriver well.

Leather needle: allows some really versatile sewing with thick fabrics and threads. imagine sewing para cord through thick vinyl.

Saw: being able to make a straight cut is great for making things from branch size wood. much faster and safer then hacking with straight blade.

Nice to have:

Fish scaler: for obvious reasons.

Bottle/can opener: these are only really useful if there are bottles and cans around.

Bit driver: you need the bits and the uses are somewhat limited.

Propane torch: I saw these additions years ago, great for wet wood, nice but shouldn’t rely on it.


USB key: Most of the ones i have seen were very small in capacity.

Fork: Nice idea but are you really gonna eat off it?

Parcel hook: Carrying a parcel wrapped in string is not useful.

It’s easy to buy a knife/tool with lots of extra attachments which will only make the tool heavier bulkier and more unwieldy to use.

Final thoughts:

Be prepared to spend on this item as it’s a solution for so many problems and it’s one of few hand tools you will be likely to have. Stick to major brand names that have a reputation for quality. Check the legality of carrying knives where you live. In some cases you can claim you are carrying a knife for cutting up apples (because that how you like them) in case you need a reason for carrying one. if there is a way of attaching a key ring or similar item try to find and attach a glow in the dark key ring to the knife. it well help you to find it if you put it down in the dark.

In terms of size, be looking at a blade length of about 75mm-125mm.

Cost: you should be looking around the $100 mark

EDC: Mobile phone

This is number  3 on the carry list.

This should be obvious, a mobile phone is a great source of information and can be used to call for help.

What is the extent of the crisis, where is safe, what other danger are around that you cant see yet.

Mobile phones in some cases have Internet  access which can even further widen their scope in information. Mobile phones may have stored data like maps or first aid manuals that may be very useful.

The phone can be used as a light source.

If needed the battery can be removed and short circuited across steel wool to create a spark to light a fire. if this fails the battery case can be cut open and the corrosive chemicals inside may ignite if added to flammable solids like wood or liquids like brake fluid or oil.

EDC: Boots

My second most favored item.

Boots, because when there is sudden crisis, its generally a good plan to start moving away from something bad and toward something good, and without boots you are not going to get far in most cases. You won’t always have the option of a vehicle and there can be all kinds of stuff on the ground that is hazardous to your health. If you can move you can avoid danger.

In an approximate continuum of worst to best possible footwear for a crisis on land is:

High heel shoes, bare feet, thongs, sandals, office worker shoes, runners, steel cap boots, military issue boots,hiking boots.

What wrong with each:

High heel shoes: make wearer clumsy and prone to ankle damage, uncomfortable after just a few hours.

Bare feet: No protection from cuts and abrasion damage from fire or chemicals. unless you have never worn shoes and you feet are tough, its a bad option.

thongs: very little protection, may become slippery with sweat or water

sandals: better than thongs but only a little better, no complete cover which is lacking.

Office worker shoes: usually have all over cover, not overly comfortable often not very sturdy and usually lacks ankle support.

Runners: no ankle support, synthetic fabrics may be less durable that office worker shoes.

Steel cap boots: the real failing is weight and how horribly cold they can get. terrible if the edge of the cap rubs part of the foot.

Army issue boots: generally good, but designed by a major corporation for maximum profitability in a likely cozy deal with a government employee. Like a lot of army gear, specialist civilian camping /hunting equipment is better. Comfort and lifespan are the two most likely issues.

The hiking  boots: Designed for harsh environment forced to compete on the shelf next to all other boots for your money. Hikers and climbers are dam picky and will buy all kinds of ‘snake oil’ like brand names. Fortunately some of the ‘snake oil’ they pay for actually works and there are some great hiking boots out there. comfortable, strong, light, designed to protect your foot. Possibly claiming to made from unicorn feathers that are farmed in a sustainable manner or some other such bold claim, which is hard to believe, but the boots live up to most rational expectations.

Unless you have a strict dress code that you must conform to for work. You have the option of wearing good boots all the time. You can take that option. boots might seem expensive to be wearing down all the time, but because they are made so strongly they will be quite economical compared to cheaper shoes you are forever replacing.

A pair of military boots I had lasted 10 years, and they were second hand. Excellent value for money.

If you are in Australia you will need to make only one major design decision in you boots, wet or dry. look at which side of the dividing range you are on an choose accordingly. Boots generally are designed for only wet or dry conditions. Hint wet boots will be brown in colour, dry boots will be tan in colour.

Almost forgot to mention, shoe/boot lases can be a great source of string.

Boots : you can get moving and keep moving for a long time, the better the footwear the better the shortcuts.

boot size: you will know the boot is right for you if it feels comfortable when you jump up and down in them. should feel snug but not sore. should only feel slightly tight in a few places.

boot breaking in: you will need to breaking boots to mold them to your unique foot shape. The easiest way to break in boots is to wear them in the shower and then walk in them outside until they are dry. Clothing is recommended for this process but if your community is all cool with naked except for boots , good for you.

EDC: Sunglasses

Depending on the situation this is often number 1.

The first piece of equipment I’d want even before clothing in some cases.

You might be stunned at this preference, I was when I first heard this, but it makes sense.

There are many environments  (arctic, desert, beach, ocean, lake , river) where glare can be severe and you will basically be blinded by the reflected sunlight in a few hours. Once you are blinded you have lost your primary sense in perceiving the world, you have lost your ability to detect threats and opportunities, you are in enormous trouble and now you only chance is being aided by others. (If no others come your chances are slim)

Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to offer good protection from the sun. Generally there is very little difference in this with respect to price, so there’s no real reason to pay more than $10. At $10 or less its quite conceivable to buy two pairs. Sunglasses are like cats and plastic lighters, you never really ‘own’ them you just posses them for a time, sunglasses usually go missing or get broken, don’t waste your money on expensive sunglasses.

There are great debates over this but I prefer all plastic glasses. plastic frames and plastic (polycarbonate) lenses. Less likely to cut me up if they get broken on my face.If they do break they are easier to fix with tape that metal frames. The plastic in the lens of plastic glasses is usually polycarbonate which is very strong and blocks out almost all UV light.

Metal frames might be able to be bent back into shape if damaged.

Metal frames could also be a source of thin metal for fish hooks.

Glass lenses might be able to start a fire if they are correcting lenses.

Glass lenses may also be a source of sharp broken glass (cutting tool) for better or worse.

If you are wishing to be incognito, tinted or mirrored lenses will help, as most systems to recognize faces rely on seeing eyes, this includes artificial systems.

A mirrored sunglass lens might be able to be used for a heliostat for signaling. The sudden and repeated flash from a mirror can be seen for many kilometers in the right conditions. It has been documented that a heliostat mirror was seen from about 30Km in a rescue situation.

So in short sunglasses protect you eyes and preserve your best source of information about the world around you.